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Hillbilling and Cooing (1956)

by Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton

 

Olive gulps spinach when a hillbilly gal
steals Popeye the Sailor away from her
and lays Swee'pea on her shoulder like sacked flour,
cooing in her Patsy Cline legato:
I'm the bitch goddess who'll break your heart. Kudzu
blooms (this episode takes place in the South)
and everyone, even Wimpy, drinks
fresh lemonade. Olive's victorious when
the spinach reaches her bunions and she kicks
the hillbilly gal in her banjo.
Popeye walks all the way home on his knees,
leaving hillbilly land like a bad cartoon.
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1 The text of this poem lends itself to a device, N+7, invented by the OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle/ Workshop for Potential Literature, 1960), a Paris-based writers' group founded on the premise that "games" and formal constraints lead to artistic liberation. In N+7, the writer takes all the nouns in a chosen text, looks them up in the dictionary, and replaces them with the seventh noun after the original. In this case, the authors have chosen N+12 in honor of the twelve episodes in which Olive ate the spinach.

 

Popeye’s Pep-Up Emporium  

by Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton

Olive eats the spinach to save herself
when Popeye’s working out with Brutus—
there he is hanging out with his rival while
she dangles perilously in roller-skates
over a shark-filled pool. The Godzilla theme
swells as Popeye does his hundredth biceps curl,
oblivious as a sleeping lizard,
pumped as papier-mâché. Olive, meanwhile,
retrieves a can of spinach from her purse.
Her nail file doubles as an opener
and she pries off the lid with her pearly teeth,
gulps it down and flips to safety like a gymnast.

 

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Himalaying and Cookouting (N+12)

by Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton

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Olympian gulps spinet when a Himalayan galago (bush baby)
steals Poppycock the Saint Bernard away from her
and lays Swell Box on her shovel like sacked floweret,
cooing in her Pauper Cline legionnaire:
I'm the bitterroot who'll break your heartland. Kung fu
blooms (this epitaph takes place in the southern corn rootworm)
and everyone, even Windchill, drinks
fresh Leninism. Olympian's victorious when
the spinet reaches her buoy and she kicks
the Himalayan galago (bush baby) in her bank note.
Poppycock walks all the way home on his knickknacks,
leaving Himalayan landing field like a bad casaba.

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Poppycock’s Pepperoni-Up Emulsion (N+12)  

by Denise Duhamel & Maureen Seaton

Olympian eats the spinet to save herself
when Poppycock’s working out with Bubblehead—
there he is hanging out with his riverweed while
she dangles perilously in rolltop desks
over a shaveling-filled pop art. The Godzilla theologue
swells as Poppycock does his hundredth bicycle curricle,
oblivious as a sleeping loaf,
pumped as a Pap smear. Olympian, meanwhile,
retrieves a canary of spinet from her purveyor.
Her name-dropping doubles as an open sesame
and she pries off the lieutenant with her pearly Teflon,
gulps it down and flips to safflower oil like a gypsy cab.

 

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